Who knew that little butterfly-shaped thyroid gland at the base of our necks could affect our physical appearance head to toe? I follow a dynamic cool woman named Karen on Twitter @headbangerwoman. Turns out Karen is a certified Esthetician with training as a hairdresser. Karen wrote this guest blog post to share beauty secrets that have helped her manage symptoms of thyroid disease.
From age eight I felt quite odd at times. I would often get an upset stomach and horrendous headaches. When my periods started at age 11, they were heavy and long. I had acne and lank, oily hair. I was skinny and I couldn’t sleep. I was restless and anxious.
By age 14 I was prescribed sleeping medication and oral acne pills.
I was seen regularly by a nurse counsellor.
At age 20, I had what I now know was a thyroid storm. I became incredibly anxious, shaking constantly, thin and my heart rate was incredibly fast.
My doctor put me on beta blockers and gave me very little explanation, other than I had anxiety! As far as I am aware my thyroid was never checked! I certainly do not remember any blood work being done at that time.
From then I started on a path of weight gain and loss, never trying to do either. Never really questioning the cycle of tiredness and depression, I blamed everything on working two jobs and often undertaking an extra night shift! Eventually, after the birth of my daughter at 28, it just became worse. I got heavier, sleepier and more depressed. My hair fell out! Of course my doctors all blamed depression. Ciprilax was the answer!
Now at age 43, I am not feeling great a lot of the time. I am at my heaviest ever, but I do feel that my thyroid doctor and respirologist have got me on the right path, medication wise. I am still undergoing investigative testing for other illnesses and symptoms.
Undiagnosed Hypothyroidism and underlying illness until I was 42 and with my eventual insistence on testing, has had an awful effect on me both physically and mentally. However throughout my illness I have always tried to look good. Of course there are days when I don’t even get dressed, but when I do, I really try to make an effort.
As an HNC certified Esthetician, with extensive Anatomy and Physiology education and trained as a hairdresser in my native England, I feel lucky to know some tricks of the trades. In this short article I will share some of them with you!
Thyroid Top to Toe…
Hair & Scalp
My hair has stopped falling out since I started the natural desiccated thyroidcalled “Thyroid” by the Canadian manufacturer Erfa. I also take DHEA, a bioidentical progesterone called Prometrium with bioidentical testosterone and progesterone that I apply topically. My doctor also tests and treats my low B12 and vitamin D3.
I stopped coloring my hair in January 2012 after I became very sick in August 2011. I just couldn’t tolerate three hours in the “hair chair.” My hair was already going grey and quite curly. Now, I try to go three days between washes and I use a diffuser, so as not to over dry. Before I style, I use a very small amount of Moroccan Oil. It seals the cuticles, which helps with the look of frizziness, coarsness and breakage. It also adds shine. To give your hair body you can style with mousse and leave to air dry in rollers. The style will last a day or so longer if you do this.
Use two or three shampoo and conditioner products alternately. This way you avoid a build up, which can cause dreadful itching.
For a crazy dry scalp, massage a little olive oil before bed and sleep in a bandana.
I suggest that if you use color, have several different shades put into your hair. Highlights and lowlights are best. This will give the illusion of depth. Try to avoid the store bought box, full head color, it makes your style one dimensional.
I have always suffered with cystic acne and it has generally been cyclical. Now I know that it is caused by a hormone imbalance, it is better than it ever has been. I take Bioidentical hormones. But as an added extra and necessity, I still look after my skin.
Hydration is a key factor for great skin, especially for those with itchy/dry skin. Drinking water is essential for this. Even if you have edema (swelling), as I do, you should still drink plenty of water.
Never sleep in your make-up. Not only will it clog your pores, it will stay on your pillow slip and you will sleep on it again the next night. Three in one facial wipes are great if you are crazy tired at bed time. For a more full time skin care regimen, find a PH balanced cleanser, toner and moisturizer that doesn’t irritate and you will not believe the results.
Cost is not necessarily a factor of the best for you!
Cleanse, tone and moisturize morning and evening.
A balanced diet is also a key factor in great skin.
When cleansing around the eye always work outside in. That way you avoid stretching the delicate skin around the eye area. Gently pat in any eye creams and moisturizers.
I use Kiehls www.kiehls.ca (Canada) products and though they may cost a little more at the outset, they are long lasting and the results for me, are incredible. A US comparable would be C.O. Bigelow; www.bigelowchemists.com an Apothecary brand, I have previously used this when traveling, with great results.
Never cleanse your face in hot water, this will break capillaries and they are then visible permanently. Always wash with tepid/lukewarm water.
Astringent cleansers will dry you out further, so avoid these if you can. If you don’t want to use a toner, use a splash of cold water to close up the pores.
In Canada we have a skin care line called Etival exclusive to Shoppers Drug Mart. I use the Ener C spritz. It is great for refreshing the skin, moisturizing and sealing make-up.
Never use an abrasive cleanser, such as a peach scrub. It will scratch and can irritate dry sky even further. If you need that harder feel, just eliminate the fabric softener from your face cloth and towels. This will give them a rougher feel. Great for exfoliating too!
Make-up is a very individual choice. I use a wide variety and you must trial and error this personally.
For a foundation, I find the BB, CC creams of today give a great, but light make-up coverage that isn’t cruel on the skin. Foundation mousse applied with a Kabuki Brush is another favorite. Great cover and quick to apply too.
For dry, chapped lips I tend to use Burt’s Bees www.burtsbees.com No harsh chemicals here and the tint looks great!
Eliminate as much stress as you can. It does effect the way you look and feel! Use a humidifier in the house….or you can even just have a jar of water near your heating vents, to put some added moisture in the air! Use distilled water if you can. Lush actually makes a lip exfoliant which is fun before you moisturize! Made from sugar! Be gentle!
For swollen and tired eyes, sleep with your head elevated. This will help drain excess fluid from your face. Buy an extra pillow to achieve this if you need to. A helpful natural diuretic for this is Dandelion. It’s funny, when we were kids, my parents would tell us not to play with the dandelions in our yard, because they would cause us to pee! Well, hurrah for them I say. I only made the connection about six months ago!
Chamomile tea bags, used and chilled in the fridge. Yes, they work! Cucumber slices, yes they work! Lay down and place over closed and relaxed eyes for at least 20 minutes. Heck, slap a moisturizing face mask on first.
Treat yourself to a fluid releasing facial. Good Estheticians are trained to massage facial fluid toward your lymph nodes. This helps to reduce waste fluid from your face. See your Optical professional for all things eye! They will perform specific testing for thyroid patients and can provide drops for dry, itchy eyes.
As for mascara, I find that bending the brush helps me get a better angle for applying mascara. This makes it easier to hold for those with wrist and hand pain, or swelling. Also, I find that the old style brushes are far superior to the new fangled plastic brushes. They allow the brush to grab and coat the lashes far better. Remove mascara each night by soaking a cotton pad with make up remover and holding gently on the lashes for 20 seconds to allow the remover to dissolve the make-up, before swiping inwards to remove. You may need to repeat several times. NOTE: Never use the same pad for both eyes, this can transfer infection. Also, have a spare mascara wand for each eye if you get regular infections! Lash Stiletto by Maybelline is my current favorite! Lise Watier has a Lash Booster Duo product which I really like and also Dermaglow Lash Enhance Growth and Conditioning Treatment, is a nice product. Both are reasonably priced.
For sparse eyebrows, I prefer to feather in my brows using a dark brown brow pencil. The pencil should be sharpened before each use to give thin, hair like lines. I never fill in blocks. I think this looks worse than having a sparse brow. Unfortunately, I tweezed too much of my brow when I was younger and so I do have to “fill in the gaps” so to speak, as my thyroid saw to it that they never returned! There is an art to this and you do need a steady hand. I suggest you start on the inside, by the bridge of the nose and in small tick like motions feather outward. The brow goes thick to thin, follow the natural line. Don’t be afraid to use a brow kit just to give you a brief guide, practice at home alone, or even visit a reputable Spa to have a lesson.
I wouldn’t advise lash extensions with constant use, they will eventually pull out your natural lashes, leaving you no choice but to continue with false lashes. However, I would advise lash and brow tinting, which saves time and can eliminate the need for mascara and brow pencil and I would encourage you to research brow tattooing, if you have little or no brow. This semi-permanent art can do wonders for your look and your confidence, especially if you have sparse brows. Ask your beauty provider to feather and even just fill in the gaps, if you, like me are not a fan of the block brow.
I find hemp moisturizer is very soothing. Gentle daily exfoliation, even with a rough towel, is great for the circulation and dry/irritated skin.
I try and use a steam room twice a week. It will help cleanse, unblock pores, promote circulation, warm you up and can also be great aid for the sinuses and dry skin.
Shower in tepid/warm water afterward and moisturize.
At home you can bathe in mineral salt. This can help with pain, and will aid in relaxation too.
Exfoliation is necessary, but as with dry skin on your face, too much agitation or rough product can cause cuts, scratches and sores. Exfoliation with a wash cloth and dry unconditioned towel is really all you need. Just run over the skin in small, definitive strokes or circles. No more flakes and vasodilation, improved blood flow, increased oxygen supply to the skin to boot! No big expense here. Shaving your legs is a great exfoliant too, but I know that can be too much for some, including me!
The best product I have ever used on my dry skin is Udderly Smooth by Redex Industries Inc www.uddercream.com My mom actually uses this on her very severe Psoriasis and after years of using strong steroid creams and cancer medication, yes really, this has been the best thing ever. Unbelievably this was originally produced for Dairy cows with cracked teats! Of course in the summer use a SPF, and avoid sunburn. This is for face and body! There is nothing worse than sunburn for dry skin!
Hands & Feet
Split cracked nails are the bain of my life. I try and give them a week rest from polish every fourth week and during that time I massage warmed olive oil into my hands and fingernails each evening. Not only will the massage warm your fingers and promote circulation; (YES, warm fingers) but it will help your hands and nails. The oil helps them to stop drying and splitting. Of course, I live in Alberta, Canada, where it is brutally dry, year round!
The other three weeks of each month, I get a good manicure and then get Shellac applied. Shellac lasts for around 17 days before you see it growing out. WARNING: The cheap strip mall salons use less than great products/knock off Shellac, which will, as I discovered personally, destroy your already messed up nails. Please spend those few extra dollars and go to a trained professional.
Acrylic and Gel nails can be great, just until your real nails grow back a little, but as with lash extensions, over use is not a great thing and can do more damage than good.
Moisturizing after after each handwash is probably necessary. Avoid the use of sanitizer. Not only does sanitizer contain harmful ingredients, it will dry your skin right out!
Use gloves when doing dishes or cleaning. Protect your nails and hands.
Buying a paraffin wax heater can help. These retail at less than $100 and refills are readily available. This paraffin wax provides lasting moisture and can help with cold and pain! It radiates deep into tissue. For feet too! If you have painful knees or wrists, you can dip tissues into a wax heater and place on those hard to reach areas! Be cautious as wax can burn.
Don’t be tempted to blade (with a razor) dry foot skin. It can become infected and removes protective skin. Gently exfoliate hardened skin while feet are wet and moisturize well afterward. Gehwol www.gehwolfootcare.com have great foot products that you can buy at your drugstore or Spa! Invest in a pumice stone for home use, they are inexpensive and tame rough skin well.
Always see a Podiatrist if you are diabetic, as your feet are less likely to heal from damage and this can be very dangerous for a diabetic.
For cheaper alternatives for any Beauty Treatment mentioned here, check out your local Beauty School. There is always an Instructor on hand and the prices are generally 50% or less than a Spa/Salon! Students are always so willing to please too!
The best beauty tip ever – SMILE.
About Karen Grahan
I’m a 43 year old married Mom of one, with a crazy music obsession. I’m Karen G on Twitter @headbangerwoman. As Headbangerwoman I have written many articles for rock music fans on my music blog Music and Dana Trentini at Hypothyroid Mom have saved my life! I have been involved in the Beauty business since I was old enough to pierce Barbies ears with a needle, at age 7! I had health problems for years, which were ignored or poo pooed by doctors, culminating in an episode of influenza and pneumonia in August 2011, from which I have never fully recovered. I have not worked since then. After two years sick and much fighting with medical professionals, I started receiving very good medical treatment and no more are the anti-depressants and pain pills. I write to vent and inform, it depends what mood I’m in! I like to keep a sense of humor about everything. Smiling really is the best medicine. Music is my Mantra!